Chaos For Fun And Profit – David Pascoe

Chaos For Fun And Profit – David Pascoe

I’m not sure if the world is going insane, or it’s been there for a while and it’s just now been off its meds long enough for the symptoms to show. Naked anti-semitism rears its ugly head from our own shores throughout Europe. I’d thought the whole Holocaust thing had suggested – gently, mind you – that rabid hatred of persons of jewish persuasion might be … hmmm, gauche? No, not gauche – too effeminate, really. Too pursed-mouthed disapproval. You want racism, activists of the first world? You will find it in those who scream “death to the Jews” in Paris, or “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight alone,” in Germany, where the use of that particular gem has been banned.

Ebola rages through western Africa, where the medical care doesn’t particularly deserve the term. Within the last couple of days, two American aid workers who’d contracted the horrifying disease were transported to the vicinity of Atlanta, GA, to a hospital with an isolation unit where they’ll receive the best medical care the US can manage, where trained folk will monitor the course of the disease. A disease we still know very little about. Hopefully they’ll learn a lot. That said, there’s a lot of fear out there about ebola landing here at home. Go read <a href=””>this</a>, in which a scientist of many years experience gives the straight dope on why the panic gripping many (I had a moment the other day, considering ordering gas masks. And a moonbase lair.) is less than helpful.

Closer to home, or at least to the headspace many of us occupy on a more regular basis, Amazon put out it’s arguments for cheaper ebooks in its ongoing <del>dispute</del>negotiations with Hatchette. Hatchette has, as far as I know, not responded. Except for plenty of people who don’t think mathematics are worth understanding, or have a distinctly activisty grasp of economics. Amazon Derangement Syndrome is has a far higher infection rate than ebola. Let us hope it doesn’t turn out to have the same fatality rate.

Most significant, at least to our little corner of the interwebs, two prominent and erudite people disagreed on the issues in scifi and nobody had to file a Hurt Feelings Chit over it. I had to look outside to ascertain that Hell hadn’t burst into the material plane and blood and ashes weren’t raining from the sky. (Rain, yes; rain of people-juice and fire-leavings, no.) Bravo Zulu to everybody for being adults, and it makes me a little grouchy that it’s such a big thing when two groups of people in our world can discuss differing points of view without turning shrill and unpleasant.

Speaking of shrill and unpleasant, Wee Dave had a rough afternoon, yesterday. After some friends (whom we hadn’t seen since leaving Hawaii last spring) left, he decided that all the things were all the wrong, and proceeded to cry himself hoarse (Which is actually kind of adorable, though that realization leaves me a little ambivalent. Am I terrible person, or do parents simply not talk about these things to those who aren’t parents?) He’s seeing the pediatrician on base today for his two month “well baby” (I’ve always called it a check up, but that’s apparently gauche *shrug*), so we’ll see if there’s anything beyond being a bit overtired and overstimulated by a long weekend of faces he doesn’t recognize and who don’t smell right.

Where’s all this going? I’m not entirely sure, but you’re more-or-less my captive, here, as I ramble. As a new parent (and, for all I know the rest of my natural life) I was willing to do pretty much anything to fix whatever was wrong with Wee Dave that had him crying until his little voice was scratchy and funny-sounding and get my smiling boy back. Virgin sacrifice? Sure, just as soon as I can find one. Slaughter a goat to Nyarlathotep? Same, though I doubt he’d care. Maybe try Bastet, instead. Read from the Necrotelecomnomicon? Twice in the time it takes to say the darn thing. And I’d remember to say, “Nikto,” too. Commit a few abominations unto Nuggan, just for good measure.

That seems to be what’s going on in the world at large right now. There are countless problems and nobody knows how to fix them. Oh, they think they do. They think that if they just manage to get the hacks out of the publishing industry, keep the indies from mucking up literature with their pulp schlock, then they’ll finally be part of the cool group and have the prestige and approval of a society they’ve never really felt part of. Or they think that if they can beat all the assault weapons into plow-shares, then the lion will lay down with the lamb, and the gangs in Chicago will have dance-offs before going home at 9:30 so their mothers won’t worry about them.

What people actually want is their comfortable, secure existence back, and are willing to blame anything and everything for taking it away. Trouble is, it was all an illusion to begin with. The safety and security they thought they had never actually existed. The proverbial 9-5 job (be it line manufacturing, management, creative) for thirty or forty years with a pension at the end of it to see you through your twilight years was as much an illusion as the wealthy, privileged families of Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver. A minuscule fraction of the populace actually experienced that life, let alone got to enjoy it. Even tomorrow has never been guaranteed to be more or less like today was. (I’m pretty sure the observation that days blend together is more a matter of human cognitive strangeness than a genuine reflection on reality.)

My best advice is to get comfortable with chaos. I’ve been polling those of greater age than I, asking such things as, “does the world seem more unstable now than twenty years ago? Thirty years ago?” And asking about perceptions during events like the Vietnam War, Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. Most people feel (and that’s such a helpful thing for figuring out what’s actually happening) that it is. So, either we’ve got things being more unstable now, about as unstable, or less unstable. I’m going to discount the last, as it owes me money and made a clumsy pass at Mrs. Dave the last time it came over. If the world is as unstable now as it was ten, twenty and thirty years ago (ad infinitum), then we have no expectation that things will get somehow “better.” If the world is more unstable now than it was at other points in time, then we genuinely have reason to worry. And we still don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

NASA just tested a reactionless drive. Successfully, it seems, though with a thrust measuring in the tens of micronewtons. Is a – you’ll pardon the expression – quantum jump in spaceflight capability just around the proverbial bend? (I sure hope so.) And yet, just think of the disruption such a thing will bring to civilization.

Society changes with every new generation. Think of the buggy whip makers. Think of the stirrup. Stability of the sort we crave and assume is an illusion, but there’s opportunity in the upheaval, if we have the eye to see it and the hand to grasp it.

121 thoughts on “Chaos For Fun And Profit – David Pascoe

  1. ” …or do parents simply not talk about these things to those who aren’t parents?”
    This. Some things just aren’t mentioned, unless perhaps in very very secure privacy with very very close friends. At least that has been our experience fwiw.

    1. More and more so, over the past couple decades, I expect. Else the wonderful and doughty, long-suffering servants of the beneficent federal government find reason to – regretfully, regretfully – look into how one treats one’s offspring, in order to determine that, perhaps, it would be better for someone else, in the employ of said munificent state, to shoulder the burden of rearing and instructing said offspring. For the children.

      1. This was one thing the extended family took care of. You learned from your parents, aunts/uncles, cousins, older siblings, and maybe a few close friends. I grew up amid my dad’s extended family — grandparents, two aunts/uncles and their children, two older cousins and THEIR children. I was expected to diaper babies, take care of toddlers, and play with my cousins, whether they were older or younger or my age. I also lived in a rural area where the keeping of pigs, chickens, cows, and goats was considered “normal”, having a back-yard garden essential, and helping out friends and neighbors expected. It’s a VERY different environment than what my children experienced (they also got to experience the “joy” of moving every two-three years, frequently to another continent where the people don’t speak the same language, even when it was English).

        If you can find it, pick up “Parenting with Love and Logic”, by Dr. Foster Cline and Jim Fey. It’s an anodyne to the carp spewed by “Dr. Spock” and all the other “you’ll hurt their tiny egos” spewers. (Foster is a friend, and a former boss, so I’m a bit prejudiced, but it’s still a good suggestion).

        One thing they don’t often teach new parents in any of the parenting classes is that sometimes a new baby cries because they hurt, and the hurt is from simply growing. You (the parent) can’t stop the hurt. The only thing you can do is sympathize, and offer the child the comfort of being held and cuddled. Sometimes that’s not only the ONLY thing you can do, but it’s also the BEST thing you can do.

        1. I don’t think we have that one, yet, but I’m certain I can swipe it from my mother’s bookshelf. She mentioned it years ago, and has applied the principles to her classroom ever since. My sister and I were already grown and out of the house by then, but I’m pretty sure my niece and nephew are receiving the benefit thereof. Yeah, this whole parenting gig is a lot more work than I signed up for, and Wee Dave is pretty easy to deal with, all things considered. We’re fortunate that Mrs. Dave’s parents have a small farm in western Colorado, so our horde (of one, thus far) will be exposed to goats, ducks, farm cats and Cuzco the Llama. And hard work, helping Grammie with her garden.

          1. Dave, everyone is going to tell you that duck taping a toddler to the wall at about 4 foot elevation can be prosecuted as a crime …

            but remember, no one has actually taken it to the Supreme Court yet.

            1. I plan to, ahhhh, encourage Wee Dave to sign (or at least make his mark) on a contract specifying where, when and under what circumstances he may spend time holding up my wall. A copy will be framed and hung prominently on his bedroom wall. The other will kept somewhere safe. Then he’ll have no one to blame but himself.

          2. One the pediatrician(s) in the family swear by is “The Magic Years” by Selma H. Fraiberg, mother, grandmother, and MD. It’s about the mental world of the young child, why they do “that” and how parents can help (or cope, or just brace for toddlerhood). It’s an older book but still highly recommended by those in the Red family with sprogs.

        2. I’ve always thought that once the little sprog makes the connection between their own behavior and parental threats and bribery (which in my experience happens at about 3 or 3 and a half) the parent is home free. Once the connection is made – “Darling, be an angel and Mommy will give you an ice cream” or “Darling, if you don’t cut that out, Mommy will spank (or time-out or whatever)” … half the angst of child-rearing is over, at least until they are teenagers. But you ABSOLUTELY HAVE to deliver on the threat/promise. Don’t even say it, unless you intend to carry through.
          Until that age, what you have is a willful, self-centered, impetuous small mammal, who might or might not obey. If not – don’t sweat it. Just chill and make sure they aren’t running out in traffic, sticking pins into electrical outlets or eating plants in the garden.

          1. Let them stick pins in the outlets, my dad did. It teaches actions have consequences in an undeniable yet nonfatal way.

            1. In these days of tech, taking away iPad time has proven to be most effective for my older. And for the younger, Grumpy Voice and timeouts actually work pretty well. But they got plenty of swats in regards to anything health or safety related before those handles developed.

              1. oh, yes. By the time they were six, I took the computer cord away for up to a day (for serious offenses.) And once for younger son for a week. (Well, he WATERED his father’s piano! I ask you.)

          2. Every single time.

            Hawaii is doing a lot better than most states with the paroled convicts in their HOPE program. This is because if they violate any of the terms of the parole, they go to jail. Maybe for three days. But to jail.

      2. Especially when the parents resist the Leviathan’s benevolent intrusion. When you aren’t willing to provide social workers with job security, what else can they do?

    2. I have a number of pictures of my kids crying. Never for anything serious, of course, but there’s something hilarious about tears over getting one’s first haircut. So… yeah. It’s a parenting secret.

        1. I think it was that had a series of photographs of babies with their ‘taste lemon for the first time’ faces. A quick google comes up with a pile of links, including Huffington Post. So the adult amusement of ‘weird faces babies pull when crying/upset/ick’ seems to be a universal normal.

          My son, when offered a lemon for the first time had a hilarious lemon face. But the thing that made it even funnier was he tried it three more times, pulled faces each time, then nommed the lemon slice he was given.

          1. There was one incident when our boy wanted some of Daddy’s sriracha. After the requisite Are you sure? we gave him a taste. He pawed at his tongue, drank a bunch of water, and pulled a bunch of appalled faces… and then asked, “More?”

            1. older son. I was peeling garlic. He came along and DEMANDED IT. I gave him a clove. He munched it. Huge smile. Asked for more. Next morning, Dan was changing that diaper… (Robert was 9 months old and in a walker. Also 90% breastfed.) “Woman, what have you fed this baby?”” 😛
              Robert STILL likes his food “as hot as it can go”. I mean, he asks for his Thai food Thai hot “No, I really mean Thai hot, don’t give me the stuff for roundeyes.”

              1. Yeah, like that. There’s a place out here that makes a dish I find physically painful. On the way in AND way out. Delicious, though.

                1. Thai place in the former gas station around the corner from Texas Tech. Cook doesn’t speak much English, and there are warning signs and disclaimers all over that if you order hot and can’t eat it, the management is not responsible. I can handle his medium chicken, but the medium beef . . . well, I finished it as a point of honor and my throat and stomach were still hurting hours later.

                  1. Housemate would to regale me with stories about the Cranky Asian Woman who ran a dimsum place at a food court he and his schoolmates used to eat at. Barely spoke English, but the food was delicious, I’m told. One guy decided to say ‘it’s not hot enough,’ so the lady narrowed her eyes made a special of nothing but the spicy ingredients and sauces available. Housemate knew the guy was in for it when the lady quietly put out a row of bottled water and drinks, as if she were ‘restocking’ the front. The fool turned bright red and began to sweat as soon as he bit into the special dimsum, chewed, and amazingly, swallowed.

                    Asian lady: “Hot?”

                    Fool: *frantic nods*

                    Asian lady: *gestures at bottled drinks* “Drink?”

                    Fool *puts wallet on counter in front of her, starts quaffing drinks*

                    Housemate, of cast iron stomach, asked for one of those dimsums. She made it and since he was the only one who COULD eat them, he’d often request it. Housemate also recounts that when the guy finished drinking, the lady only took out of his wallet the cost of the drinks and the dimsum. The guy also stared in horror at Housemate, who was happily munching away.

                    There were other places run by similarly cranky old Asian women, all with great food and with interesting temperaments and tales behind them.

            2. Hah! Did he get more?

              We’d gotten some kind of hot pepper for Housemate, who loves spicy food, and was slicing them up to munch raw. My son saw the brightly colored things and asked what they were; inevitably he was convinced to try a piece. He liked it; and Housemate was so delighted he ended up feeding all the peppers to the little one, surprised when his little bowl was empty.

              Rule in my household is ‘if its food or drink, try it at least once,’ because the kids think ‘If mum and dad are eating/drinking it, it must be yummy.’ They don’t like beer ^_^

              1. Of course he did. He doesn’t ask for it now that he’s older, though, much to my husband’s disappointment. (His superpower is “But I only used *one* hot pepper!”)

              2. My father apparently grew up with spicy foods. He can handle it pretty well. I… can’t.

    3. There’s a slight tendency for parents to be rather defensive– and an over-abundance of people willing to give them reason.

  2. I’m less worried about the two doctors with Ebola being brought back to the US for treatment, than I am at the totally unrestricted flood of illegal immigrants coming across our southern border, many of whom are ill with scabies, TB and who knows what else. (And who have already infected American health care workers and Border Patrol agents with various diseases.) Doubtless they’ll bring Ebola as well, if it makes the jump across the Atlantic…especially since Mexico seems to be becoming the jumping-off point of choice for would-be illegal immigrants to America from all over the world.

    (Yes, some may consider my attitude heartless, but I don’t see that people who support what amounts to human trafficking and child prostitution for political advantage deserve the moral high ground. Nor do the people that are being so exploited deserve special treatment, beyond being fed, watered, treated and sent home. And speaking of treatment: I suppose it’s just a coincidence that two of the CDC’s designated Ebola quarantine centers are in Dallas and El Paso, right?)

    That said, CDC’s recent track record with handling infectious diseases isn’t very reassuring, is it? Exposing dozens of its research staff to airborne anthrax? Just losing track of several vials of viable smallpox, and leaving it in a file drawer in an abandoned lab? Sending out human-infectious swine flu to a Department of Agriculture lab by mistake?

    1. I have a very jaundiced view of the CDC.
      I remember when they were attempting to deflate the public scare about Creutzfeldt-Jakob, making public statements that there were only three cases in the entire country.
      I was working at a hospital at the time, and knew darned well that there were more cases than that in just our immediate area.

      1. This. If it were just Emory, or any other properly equipped hospital, than I’d be a lot less skeptical. But once the CDC shows up . . . I remember the Hanta mess, where the locals did all the work and the CDC showed up and spooked everyone else.

    2. I’m concerned that the CDC is succumbing to a particularly pernicious strain of intellectual authoritarianism. One where level of training and credentialism trumps experience without fail.

      It’s not unusual for the highly educated, recently graduated specialist to swagger and lord over the less formally educated technicians, despite the large experience gap favoring the techs. And there’s a logical foundation for this. A more comprehensive education, perhaps a deeper understanding of process and origin, allows for more predictive modeling. It informs anticipation and discovery. It justifies itself in mental acuity and the ability to drive the process.

      But there was a time when the highly educated, but long graduated would pull the new grads aside and advise them to restrain their arrogance. Experience counts.

      Now, I’ve seen such arrogance go unrestrained far too many times. Engineers contemptuous of the queries of experienced builders, doctors disregarding nurses nearing retirement, scientists disinterested in the practical cautions of lab techs.

      They’ve got professional recognition from an accrediting body, see? They are officially at the top of the pyramid.

      Corollary to this, of course, is the failure to ever understand how the rest of the pyramid works and therefore be unable to supervise appropriately.

      They, and the political hacks, are running the CDC.

      Oops. Anybody know where I put that vial?

  3. “Amazon Derangement Syndrome is has a far higher infection rate than ebola. Let us hope it doesn’t turn out to have the same fatality rate.”


  4. I don’t think that the world is any crazier it’s just that the pace of crazy has picked up apace. Before, if you were wanting to wage a war against your neighbourghs it tended to involve draft animals, large siege engines, and weeks to even arrive at the point of engagement. These days, with the proper equipment, you can turn an enemy stronghold into a parking lot and still manage to return in time for Martinis. Better still, you can watch it unfold in real time on your local cable news network.

    It used to be that skirmishes would occur, and be long resolved before those in parts of the world that were not involved had any idea that anything was going on. Global interconnection and the 24/7 news cycle has only served to magnify what has been going on, as modern technology has enabled more engagements to occur at a faster pace. As always, our technology seems to outpace our maturity.

    1. Nailed it!
      That 24/7 news cycle has a ravenous hunger for content, and apparently a large audience willing to eat it up whatever it may be. Increasingly I see news items that are at best regional issues being thrown up (almost literally in some cases) to feed the national stage. It’s the main reason that most folks believe that crime is getting worse when the official statistics prove the exact opposite.
      Over time this must settle out, and eventually everyone will believe that this is how things have always been. In the mean time change is always disruptive and we humans adapt in ways impossible to predict beforehand.

      1. This, more than the other.
        Arabs trying to destroy Israel? That’s been true for nearly 70 years. (Not to mention the massacres they perpetrated prior to Israel being established.)
        Russia being militant and expansionary? That’s been true for centuries.
        Ditto for Islam, but for over a millennium. (And Russia never had anything as evil as the Janissaries.)
        Government officials enriching themselves and consolidating power at the direct expense of the population they’re supposed to serve? That’s pretty much the historical norm.

        That said, there’s more to it.
        The main problem as I see it, are people who are too broadminded to take their own side in a fight.
        Of course, that’s not new, either. Tacitus thought more highly of the proto-vikings than he did of his fellow Romans.
        But even so, he *was* willing to fight the Germanic tribes. I can’t help but feel that that’s a very significant difference.

  5. “Chaos is what killed the dinosaurs, darling.”

    I think the level of chaos ebbs and flows and the current regime is either allowing or causing more simply by doing nothing. (Or what little they do is seen as incompetent.) I think a large chunk of the population thinks they have a right to stability and anyone telling them otherwise is evil. I think this happens when life gets too easy for too long. (Man, that’s a lot of thinking for a Monday morning.)

    The Little Mouse is cutting a tooth. This weekend consisted of her staying as near to her mother as possible, not knowing what she wanted but knowing she wanted it right now and dosing with tylenol then naps. The fun of parenting never ends. 🙂

      1. I’ve been under the impression that a certain level of amnesia sets in, so you forget the worst of it; that it’s an evolutionary guarantor of further generations.

        1. My hubby is convinced that there’s something that makes women forget the pain of childbirth. From experience though, I think the catalog of “Hilarious, silly and downright stupid things the kids did’ is carefully kept and documented by parents, to be trotted out when they invite the first Romantic Involvement over. A few are even initiated by the parents, especially if they’re nerds and geeks (I know of one who put her son into a toddler-size Captain Picard uniform and snapped LOTS of pictures.)

          What? It’s a parental pleasure, if not duty, especially when they get into the ‘I’m a teenager I know everything and I’m invincible’ stage of life. You just hope fervently that you’re not the one who ends up with the stories of ‘oh, your kid isn’t as bad as mine, we had 3 emergency room trips in the last week alone’ variety.

          I’ve had three such stories related to me personally, and one I read about in this book: (Red Circle “Brandon-proof. There’s that term again. Hadn’t they learned?”

          1. I haven’t forgotten that childbirth hurts, but I don’t have real tactile memories of the pain. For which I am GRATEFUL. Especially as I may not get the option of an epidural this round (gestational diabetes; we may need to schedule an induction a bit early, and inductions and epidurals generally aren’t mixed.)

              1. That’s reassuring. I’ve heard that sometimes they won’t do it because the drugs can cancel each other out. The last time, they left the epidural “until it starts hurting” which was far too late; by the time they got it in I was in the home stretch so I got to feel everything, had the baby, and THEN my legs went numb. Less than helpful. (The first one was awesome, though, because I could feel enough to know exactly what was going on, but none of it hurt.)

                1. Marshall was born in an hour and a half. I went in saying “I want drugs” and as I was delivering I was screaming “BUT you promised me drugs, you did.” 😛

              1. Thank you! I met you in person once, at the Denver Worldcon, with my first. This one is the last *planned*, which I am careful to specify as my husband is fifteen years younger than his nearest sibling, so we know about surprises.

                  1. My brother and I were both unplanned and both only children for all intents and purposes. The only difference is I had three parents and one of them was a hippie…

                    1. I recently told someone that when I was little, I didn’t have a sister, I had a babysitter.

                  1. I wanted half a dozen originally; but there are huuuuge gaps between my kiddlywinks – seven between the first two; and Vincent’s 7 years old now.

                    If I may ask, M’lady Sarah, have any of my emails been getting through to you? I sent I think two yesterday and one today. Perhaps I should try to send to the hotmail one?

            1. Yipes; I’ve been lucky to avoid gestational diabetes, but due to some complications the last time I was pregnant plus age I may need to have an induction the next time.

              I remember the first time best though; 38 hour labour. No painkillers, but that was more because what I was feeling I could handle – and I’d been told ‘let us know when you can’t handle it any more.’

              But I’m older now… XD

              1. I was in labor for three days with Robert. After two days they did give me everything including an epidural. Nothing took. I have… a weird reaction to anesthetics.

                1. My husband has to do sedation dentistry because he’s basically developed an immunity to all the local dental drugs. Oh yes, I understand weird reactions. (The sedation drugs are also supposed to wear off after half a day, but he gets to be loopy for two.)

            2. Oh, that’s a known issue?

              I had an epidural the first time, and after some 18 hours or something they gave me a little bit of stuff to “help me along”… with the result of an emergency c-section when the result on the Princess was NOT reassuring.

              Two pregnancies later, I found out they’d thought they were going to lose me, too. (I don’t think they told Elf, but I won’t ask; if he had to decide not to tell me, I trust his judgement on the need to know stuff.)

              1. Less of an issue because of bad interactions and more because pitocin can sometimes be slowed down by an epidural. But they never really know how things are going to react, especially the first time.

  6. I think that things haven’t really changed all that much – every generation has looked back on the generation before it and said “Things were so much better in that golden age”. We just see more of what’s going on so the news cycle can sell airtime. And we get less retraction of “oops we got it wrong” because there is so much crap that gets coverage these days most people have forgotten the original issue in a few days.

    1. You remember when the Russians shot down that airliner and everyone thought “Man, this is it! The world won’t stand for this!” Whatever happened with that?

      It blows my mind that not only did a civilian aircraft get shot out of the sky and nothing was done but that everyone seems to have forgotten about it.

        1. It’s safe for it to be on the news in Europe and Australia. Even if people do get outraged there’s not much they can do to get their governments involved, and there isn’t much their governments could do anyway. Here in the US, we have the power to do something about Russia (restart land-based BMD, a mutual defense pact with Ukraine, sending over advisors and a mechanized infantry battalion while bringing Ukraine troops to train at NTC, crashing global natural gas prices, etc.) and since this an election year the media runs the risk of painting Democrats as unserious about national defense…again. So the media is going to do their job and cover for Democrats, and that means keeping anything that makes Obama and Kerry look bad (up to and including pictures of the Secretariat of State) off of screens.

  7. reactionless drive: Rather like the FTL neutrino results a while back, reactionless propulsion is tied into what we know about the structure of the universe (and trashes it) in such a way that I really want extraordinary evidence before bothering to pay attention. Iffy reports of micronewtons in one kind of poorly documented lab situation? Not even close.

    Even when a result merely requires a fundamental new kind of particle or something (cold fusion, for example) instead of overturning everything we have found about the symmetry of the universe, it’s wise to look for extremely strong evidence. How often in the history of science would that rule have led you wrong? I can only think of two candidates, and they’re both pretty marginal, which I think is pretty consistent with “wise”.

    One strong reason to oppose continental drift was that it was apparently very hard to understand where the vast energy required could come from. They knew about radioactive decay, but the fluid mechanics coupling that heat energy to mechanical energy was apparently obscure. I don’t know fluid mechanics myself, but I know a geology buff who knows it well, and he seems to think they were being reasonable. But caviling about how standard fluid mechanics can’t easily be made to explain it (but doesn’t outright forbid it) is not on the same level of “oh gimme a break” informed skepticism as violating conservation of momentum. In the last century or so we’ve gotten a lot of practical mileage out of increasingly explicit ties between conservation laws like that and fundamental symmetries of the universe; in the case of momentum conservation, the symmetry is invariance with respect to displacement in space, which is a symmetry that gets exercised constantly and seems to hold perfectly to exceedingly high accuracy in all situations. Maybe that all turns out to have an important exception — which would be sort of like what happened for CPT symmetry ca. 1950, only about ten times weirder and about a hundred times harder to reconcile with how our old physics works so accurately for so many things — but it has worked so well for so long that I really want the experimental evidence nailed down before I worry about it.

    And one strong reason to oppose Darwin’s evolution by natural selection was that the Earth couldn’t be that old, because (1) the Sun would’ve burned out and (2) heat gradient in Earth’s crust (known from deep mines, etc.) would have dissipated. Presently that anomaly was straightened out by discovering radioactivity: like cold fusion, it was the kind of anomaly which can be straightened out “merely” by discovering a huge missing term in one’s equations (nuclear forces, roughly, in one case; hard to imagine what would suffice for cold fusion, but at least it wouldn’t require shredding a conspicuous symmetry of the universe the way that reactionless drive would). To straighten out reaction drive would seem to require something much deeper, akin to the old revolution eliminating the previously essential difference between celestial mechanics and earthly mechanics, or the pre-relativity assumption that time was absolute, or several pre-QM assumptions so deep that they hardly realized they were making them (like the separability of position and momentum). It can happen, but it doesn’t happen very often, and when it does, you don’t generally learn about it from people who are reporting extreme conclusions while being coy about how they did the experiments.

    1. It was brought up in a Facebook group that I’m in that the thrust was on the order of that which could be expected from leakage of the microwaves in the unit.

  8. Oh yea – expect a few tears– Wee Dave may have been frustrated on his inability to say anything useful. 😉 As for stable and secure– I wish I had that back… I have my fingers crossed tightly.

    1. Once upon a time, my cousin, her husband, and their little girl were at a party. The little girl started to cry. My cousin said, “Words, Rachel, use words! Tell us what you want.” She managed to choke out “cup,” and all was resolved happily.

      1. Signing time videos.

        Little children want very few things and a very few signs (More, Drink, eat) help narrow things down *dramatically*.

        My daughter STILL unconsciously makes the sign for “more” when she wants something.

  9. We feel things are more unstable now because it’s NOW, and the others were THEN and we lived thru them pretty much OK, and we don’t know how things NOW will turn out. And, we hear about them more rapidly.

    I know guys who spent time in missile silos back in the Cold War days, who thought then things were fairly stable. Now, though, America As Cop On The Beat is off having coffee and donuts and thinking about retiring from the force, and the mice are beginning to play and growing into full-on rats. Soo,,,

    Nikto doesn’t work by itself, ya needs “Klaatu Barada” up front.

    1. I don’t want to make it better. Total order is safe but the death of freedom. Liberty is chaos managed individually.
      As the left squeezes more slips through their fingers. Attempting to control even moderately free men is like grabbing jello. I, for one, am all for this because they do NOT learn without the reality stick upside the head.

    2. To this end, I am naturally inclined to say that everyone should get a rifle and a pistol, and learn how to use them. Stock up on ammunition and food. Try to convince everyone that trading straight gold, silver and copper (or perhaps even a more-complicated “conglomerate” of everything from coal and oil to steel to apples and oranges) would be a lot better to use as a currency than fiat dollars. Learn a craft or two. Learn how to keep calm, and how to calm others, when everyone else is panicking.

      Anything I left off? Probably. But hopefully this is a good start!

      (If only I had the time and money to do all these things… :.)

  10. Yes, it feels like things are spinning more and more out of control. That’s to be expected. We’re still in the middle of dramatic technological changes, which have poured out and over into cultural changes as well. Such is going to be life for a very long time, at least until the rate of technological change slows, and even then we’re going to see a protracted period of second- and third-order changes as things settle towards a new equilibrium, right?

    Our job is to adapt to the changes without losing our foundation. It’s going to take imagination, improvisation, more than a little chutzpah (totally stealing that from Stephen Pressfield, who, in my defense, <a href=""stole it himself).

    (Unrelated note – I’ve been out for the last week with my head down studying for the PMP certification test, which I passed on Friday. Did I miss anything epic in the comments section?)

          1. *blink* Oh, heck, what did I– oh, wait, you mean the ‘it’s good if the sick and old die’ kinda guy. The whole two-bit eugenics thing stuck more than the brainless rah-rah-Ocare thing.

    1. Congratulations on passing the test! \ ^o^ /

      The winners of the Baen contest were mentioned over in Larry’s blog, and there’s some mocking going on, on “If you were a dinosaur my love,”… The others events have been more or less covered so I’d say it’s been pretty quiet for the venues…

    2. Congrats on the certification! Good project managers are worth their weight in gold-pressed latinum 😉

  11. “Amazon Derangement Syndrome is has a far higher infection rate than ebola. Let us hope it doesn’t turn out to have the same fatality rate.”


  12. Re: Chaos.
    If you look over the last century, we have had a lot of chaos:
    1910’s – The War To End All Wars: Changed Europe, Russia, Middle East. Jailing of dissidents in the US.
    1920’s – Relatively stable, but the US had prohibition, organized crime, and major changes in technology.
    1930’s – The Great Depression
    1940’s – WWII
    1950’s – Relatively stable, but the International Communist Conspiracy and M.A.D.
    1960’s – The 1960’s. Need I say more?
    1970’s – For the US: Nixon, Carter, and two oil crises. Iran and the Ayatollah (triggering a resurgent Islam).
    1980’s & 1990’s – Actually relatively stable for the US. Lots of political bickering, but also lots of quiet bipartisanship.
    2000’s – 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, “selected, not elected,” Bush derangement syndrome, etc.
    2010’s – More of the same.
    I honestly don’t think that we have had much in the way of “stable” times.

    1. The Myth is always so much stronger than the reality. The yearning for a bygone golden age is rampant through classical literature as well, Plato’s descriptions of Atlantis are a prime example.

            1. Hmm. Actually we’ve been through a drought of postings of the “Gods of the Copybook Headings.”

              As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
              I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market-Place.
              Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall.
              And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

              We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn,
              That water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
              But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision, and Breadth of Mind,
              So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

              We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
              Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market-Place;
              But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
              That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

              With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch.
              They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch.
              They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings.
              So we worshiped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

              When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
              They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
              But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
              And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

              On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
              (Which started by loving our neighbor and ended by loving his wife)
              Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
              And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

              In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
              By robbing selective Peter to pay for collective Paul;
              But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
              And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

              Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
              And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
              That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four —
              And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

              * * * * * *

              As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
              There are only four things certain since Social Progress began: —
              That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her mire,
              And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
              And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
              When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
              As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
              The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

                1. I divided between “good to know” and “oh, a challenge” as responses. 😮

              1. Now, now, get your punctuation correct. That would be a Carp-et* bombing.

                * But what that Carp et that got him bombed, I’ll never know. (Runs)

    2. A “stable” society is one that has stagnated, which is usually good for The Ruling Class, and bad for everyone else. The older I get, the more I am incclined to the belief that much of the Intellectual Angst expressed over the Imdustrial Revolution is nothing more than the old Ruking Class (plus those deluded enough to think they would have belonged to it) moaning about their koss of control over everyone else.

      1. IMO it’s not so simple as that.

        Yes, I think the Landed Gentry types did find it disturbing that the merchant types and factory owners were gaining power and influence.

        But IMO the Intellectual types saw the world changing in ways that they found it hard to adapt to.

        For them it wasn’t a loss of power (or potential power) that bothered them, but that they understood the older ways and didn’t understand the newer ways.

        Of course, most of the Intellectual types had little knowledge of the rural class so lacked the understanding of why the rural types were moving to the manufacturing towns to work in those smelly factories.

    3. When viewed at the pixel level (moment to moment) delta T looks significant, but when you zoom out to the greater perspective of years, decades, centuries the detail gets smoothed greatly. Viewing the Past is also affected by the distortion of knowing how it all came out — there’s none of the anxiety of monitoring D-Day, for example, nor the Battle of the Bulge.

      Human minds being what they are, such brief periods of stability as have occurred have typically been just long enough for our enlightened elites to forget the gods of the copybook headings.

  13. Once, a singer whose alternate career choice was going to be history teacher got fed up with “it’s not nearly as good as it used to be”, and started scribbling events down on a napkin. The result was a song called “We didn’t start the fire.” You might not care for the now-dated music, but the lyrics are a fine nod to “it’s never been a stable utopia.”

    I’ve long wished he’d go back and add a couple more verses for the recent decades. But the point is, if you go back to the headlines of the past, the world has always been full of disasters, and ever since the industrial revolution started, it’s been changing too fast for people to cope. (Except we always somehow manage.)

    1. Even before the industrial revolution the pace of change has been fast. History only has a smooth flow from a distance. Much like the ocean. From the bluff she is a rolling sameness, peaceful and wide, from the breakers a swamping terror of light water and noise.

    2. 🙂 I’ve seen that song used as part of the final exam for world civ (second half) classes in high school and college.

      1. A while back, I caught a snippet of an interview with him about that song. I wish I could remember if it was written or on the radio. Apparently the whole thing got started when a twenty something was talking to him and lamenting how hard the times were. The line that inspired the song was when the kid looked at him and said ‘You grew up in the 50s, nothing happened in the 50s.’ so he sat down that night and wrote down all the headline making news that he could remember from each decade.

        Incidentally, he also said it was the song he most hated performing live, because if you lost it during a verse there was no way to recover before the chorus.

        /random but relevant trivia.

  14. I am okay with most types of chaos, and know how to land on my feet pretty well, but I have to admit that the whole new crowds of people hollering “death to the {me, my wife, and baby daughter}” sure are unsettling. It gives me an unpleasant sense of having read this book before and not liking the ending.

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